Faculty Sponsor: Gerardo Martí
In this paper, I address this inattention to the social basis of identity that exists within black veganism literature by examining how black vegans outwardly convey their internal conceptions of identity in an effort to navigate external stigma. The goal of this paper can be summarized in my research question: How do black vegans attempt to convince other blacks that their blackness and veganism are compatible? To answer this question, I draw on semi-structured interviews with fifteen black vegans. I find that, in contrast to previous research, black vegans primarily experience stigma for not acting black, not for acting white. In order to counter this stigma, black vegans normalize their stigmatized identity, painstakingly fabricating a performance in order to show that their diet does not prevent them from being just as “black” as black non-vegans. The specific performative methods black vegans report that they employ to attempt to convince black non-vegans that blackness and veganism are compatible are captured in three general messages: blacks need veganism in order to deal with health problems, blacks have had plant-based diets for generations, and veganism is accessible to blacks. While these performances are racialized, black vegans’ internal understanding of their vegan identity is not racialized, which I theorize as the result of their un-internalization of stigma. Implications of these findings are that an intersectional approach is necessary within vegan literature, vegan activism organizations must radically change their approach if they are to successfully appeal to blacks, and the “burden of acting white” as an explanation for racial differences (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986) must be reconsidered.